(no subject)

Aug. 21st, 2017 07:12 pm
[personal profile] fluffymormegil

On further probing, it appears that starting up gnome-inform7 has a race condition. Sometimes it crashes at startup, sometimes it doesn't, and there is no externally visible rhyme or reason to why.

The existence or otherwise of its data directory is a red herring.

Music meme: day 21 of 30

Aug. 21st, 2017 12:50 pm
[personal profile] liv
A favourite song with a person's name in the title: Several options for this one, but I'm going with Hey there Delilah by Plain White T's. I generally really like songs that tell a bit of a story, and I can imagine the characters in this one so vividly. I like the balance of emotions; it's a sad song about missing a lover, but it's also optimistic and the music is at least somewhat catchy. And I like that they're apart because they're both pursuing their careers, it's not some passive muse waiting for her artist boyfriend to come home. It's not my usual musical style; indeed I discovered it simply by listening to chart radio like some young person who's in touch with the recent music scene.

Besides, I've been in long-distance relationships pretty much my entire adult life, so I can really relate. But no longer; I haven't posted about this in public yet, but in a couple of weeks I'm properly moving to Cambridge. So I'll be living full time in the same house as my husband and the same town as my Other Significant Others. And I won't be spending every Friday and Sunday evening commuting. I'm really really looking forward to this next phase in my life, but also at the moment up to my ears in arranging the move, and quite emotional about leaving the situation I've been settled in for 8 years.

This weekend I lead my last Shabbat morning service with my lovely community. They are understandably nervous about the future without me, and I will miss them absolutely terribly. I talked a bit about Re'eh, making sure that there's no comparison between Moses saying farewell to the Israelites and me saying farewell now. I discussed keeping sanctity while you're living in an imperfect situation, far away from Jewish centres. What compromises can you make (eating meat without making a Temple sacrifice) and what lines can't be crossed (worshipping in Pagan sites)? Then it will go well for you and your children after you, for all of time, because you will do what is good and right in the eyes of the Eternal your God. And we ate cakes made by my sister and the community gave me some really nice silver Shabbat candlesticks with engraved stands.

[personal profile] jack came up to help me sort the flat out. In lots of ways the decision making is the harder part of packing than the physical labour, so having my husband with me was an amazing help. I am really looking forward to living with him and properly sharing the work of running a household, because we're such a great team. Not just one day in the distant future when our dreams come true, but next month:
We'll have it good
We'll have the life we knew we would
My word is good

video embed )

[ Books ] Walkaway - Cory Doctorow

Aug. 21st, 2017 11:44 am
[personal profile] flaviomatani
WalkawayWalkaway by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me a little bit to get into the world of the book, but once it grabbed me I couldn’t let go until I finished it. The high-tech near-future world of the book is in the hands of a few mega-rich and the rest struggle to survive. Four young people decide to join the ‘walk-aways’, people who leave mainstream society and set out on their own. The strife that follows, as well as the main cause of that strife (which you only find out half-way through the book) defines the plot of the book. Some of it really stretches your suspension of disbelief to almost breaking point but it all is quite well done and holds together. The main characters are well drawn, believable for the most part. I enjoyed this book a lot.

View all my reviews
[syndicated profile] ianvisits_feed

Posted by Ian Visits

Although called a street, this is in fact an alleyway, or at least, enough of it is to qualify.

The rather grandly named Fleur de Lis Street is a relic of the time when this part of Spitalfields was filled with French émigrés, the Huguenots, who fled to this country following the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572.

Like most of London once, this was all fields, up until around the 1720s, when the area started to be developed. The first record of the neighbouring streets can be found in May 1724, so it’s likely that Fleur de Lis Street was laid out at around the same time.

Always an alley, it may have once been called Shoreditch Alley, at least according to Rocque’s map of 1746. When it adopted its current name is not known.

None of the original buildings from that time now survive, and what’s here is itself soon to be swept away in favour of tall towers.

It’s unlikely that the new building owners will be as accommodating to the sign that you are in Shoreditch, the copious amount of street art/graffiti (delete depending on preferences), although I would prefer it if the painters would avoid painting over street names.

Although this alley is short, and decorated by modern hands, it has a certain charm to it, in the old style street lights, and the warehouse buildings that are evocative of a time when offices didn’t dominate the area.

The street also marks a hidden boundary though — it’s the border of the old parishes of St Leonard Shoreditch, Christ Church Spitalfields and the Liberty of Norton Folgate.

Amsterdam trip - day 3

Aug. 21st, 2017 09:17 am
[personal profile] wildeabandon
I did not sleep especially well on Sunday night, and woke up with an explanation for why I’d been so sleepy during the day in the form of an unpleasantly sore throat. I threw painkillers at it until it subsided and decided that I would give up on any silly ideas about morning runs until I was feeling back to 100%.

By the time I woke up properly and we’d eaten breakfast, Ramesh realised that he was also feeling quite under the weather, and decided to treat it with spending a while longer in bed, so I set off into town alone to spend some time in the red light district. Naturally, I spent that time looking at churches. Why, what else did you expect? First I went round the Oude Kerk, which was originally a Catholic cathedral, but became protestant during the reformation. There was a very good audio guide, which managed to personalise the experience without being twee. It had been left very austere by the iconoclasm, but in recent years has been used as a space for new art, sacred and secular. Afterwards I went on to Our Lord in the Attic, a house church which has been reconstructed to be very similar to how it was in the seventeenth century. Catholicism at that point was not exactly tolerated, but the authorities would turn a blind eye if people weren’t too blatant about it, and despite looking like a normal house from the outside it was impressively spacious and opulent inside.

After an ecclesiastical morning I went and had lunch with [personal profile] ewan (because what foreign holiday would be complete without running into someone who lives down the road and just happens to be visiting the same city). We met at the Foodhallen, which had a good range of choices, including several for the vegan. After lunch I gave Ramesh a call to see if he was feeling up to coming out, but as he wasn’t I went for another attraction he was less interested in - the Zoo! I hadn’t been to the Zoo for about 25 years or so, and wasn’t expecting to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. There was a panther who was very stealthy, sea-lions who were very loud and playful, lions who were very sleepy, a gorilla and a capybara who were both completely uninterested and much smaller and much larger than I expected respectively.

By the time I got back to the hotel Ramesh had rested sufficiently and we went out looking for dinner. We had foolishly assumed that on a Monday evening we’d probably be able to just walk into somewhere, but after the first three places we tried were fully booked, didn’t have any veggie options, and fully booked we decided to go back to the sushi place we’d liked on Saturday, and make a couple of bookings in the places that were popular enough to be fully booked.

America's total eclipse

Aug. 21st, 2017 07:00 am
[syndicated profile] diamondgeezer_feed

Posted by diamond geezer

One cold February morning way back in 1971, just before playtime as I remember, the headmistress at my infant school came bustling into our classroom. She asked us all to go outside, to stand in the middle of the playground and to look carefully upwards. The sky was blue apart from one large fluffy cloud, obscuring the sun but just transparent enough to allow sight of a horned black crescent behind, its upper half eaten away by some unseen cosmic force. This was the first eclipse of the sun that I'd ever seen, and it made quite an impression (though thankfully not by burning out my retina). Since then I've always gone out of my way to make a special effort to view any solar eclipse if I possibly can - although the number I've managed to see has only just crept into double figures, that's how rare these things are.

While I was still at primary school I discovered in a reference book that a total eclipse of the sun was due to cross the UK in 1999. That date seemed impossibly far off at the time - I'd be, ooh, absolutely ancient - but it was most definitely a date to look forward to. Immediately I knew I wanted to be in Cornwall on that August morning several decades hence, simply to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. As the end of the century approached I got time off work, booked a vastly overpriced hotel room and lumbered myself with a less than enthusiastic (Cornish) travelling companion. We braved the traffic jams and the increasingly pessimistic weather forecast to head southwest, enduring it all just to be in the path of the moon's shadow during that unique two minute slot.

It was sunny in Cornwall at ten past eleven on every other morning that week, but on Wednesday 11th August the cloud rolled in and obscured the sky throughout the entire three hour spectacle. At the crucial climactic moment a huge dark shadow whooshed in from the Atlantic and blackened the land like some eerie premature twilight, but the true spectacle was sweeping across the cloudtops a few hundred feet above our heads. So near, and yet so far. I was crushed. The event I'd been dreaming of for so long had proved the most enormous disappointment, and I suffered "Was that it? You brought me all the way down here for that?" for the rest of the week. London friends crowed on our return that they'd seen everything perfectly and unobscured, except they'd only seen 97% and it was the uniqueness of totality I'd felt compelled to experience.

In amongst all the eclipse paraphernalia I acquired at the time was a book listing every future solar eclipse up to 2020. There seemed to be plenty, but once the partial and annular eclipses were stripped out only 13 total eclipses remained. What's more most of these were in awkward locations like Antarctica or across the open ocean, so I wasn't going to get to see any of those. But one stood out, a total eclipse on 21st August 2017, whose path would cross the entire width of the United States of America and thus be easily accessible. Having failed in 1999, I pencilled in USA 2017 as my next attainable totality.

Last time I was standing in a queue with an eclipse chaser I made sure to ask where the best weather prospects would be found along its track. The Northwest, she said, specifically Oregon, confirming in my mind which side of the country would be optimal. Nobody wants to travel all that way and then see nothing, as I'd discovered in 1999. Meanwhile Idaho and Wyoming seemed too remote for a Brit with no transport, Kansas City was too peripheral to the line of totality, and Nashville had a reputation for summer cloud. There was a time in the last ten years when I had a friend living in Charleston, South Carolina, but they moved swiftly on and that option disappeared. The Great American Eclipse remained a possibility rather than a planned reality.

"We should definitely go," I said to BestMate, and more than once over the entire time I've known him. His work often takes him to the west coast of America, he even has a visa, so that would help. Except, it turned out as 2017 drew closer, his visa expired at exactly the wrong time for a midsummer visit, so going together was suddenly off the table. Never mind, I had one last trick up my sleeve, I lost my job. My time was now my own, and nobody was going to tell me I couldn't have that week off because there was some deadline or a meeting they thought important. If I wanted to go and watch the moon glide precisely in front of the Sun, I could.

But I haven't gone to America. I could have, and I wanted to, but I never got round to planning it. More to the point, just when I was actually thinking about planning it, America changed. From being a sort-of welcoming country under the previous administration, the inauguration of Donald Trump set in train a series of pronouncements on borders, security and immigration control which deterred me from going. Travelling into an American airport is never fun, and if additional procedures were going to make things worse, I didn't want to go. It's probably only a perception issue - a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing - but Trump changed my mind and put me off visiting his country. Totally.

Instead I shall have to watch today's total eclipse virtually from across the pond, from 18:16 BST in Oregon to 19:48 BST in South Carolina. It'll be nowhere near the same as actually being there - no substitute ever comes close to experiencing totality with your own eyes - but I've let this prime opportunity slip away. And then, to rub salt in my wounds, the partial eclipse will come whizzing across the Atlantic and reach the UK just before sunset. The first black nibble over London comes at 19:40, with maximum coverage at 20:04, just before sunset at 20:11. But that means the sun'll be really low in the sky, plus only 4% of the solar disc will be covered which is pathetically small as eclipses go, so this one's really not worth bothering to look at at all.

Three other not very good partial eclipses will be seen from London over the next eight years, before the next cracker in the summer of 2026. Over 90% of the sun will be covered on 12th August 2026, which is as good as it gets until 2081, if you're planning on still being around then. But there are two nearby countries where the 2026 eclipse will be total, namely Iceland and Spain, so maybe I should start making plans to be there instead. That once-in-a-lifetime spectacle deserves to be seen one day, but not today... opportunity spurned, opportunity missed.

London's next ten partial solar eclipses
• Mon 21 August 2017 (20:04 BST) 4%
• Thu 10 June 2021 (11:13 BST) 20%
• Tue 25 October 2022 (10:59 BST) 15%
• Sat 29 March 2025 (11:03 GMT) 31%
Wed 12 August 2026 (19:13 BST) 91%
• Mon 2 August 2027 (10:00 BST) 42%
• Sat 1 June 2030 (06:21 BST) 48%
• 21 Aug 2036 (19:07 BST) 60%
• 16 Jan 2037 (09:06 GMT) 46%
• 3 Jan 2038 (14:34 GMT) 5%

The UK's next five total solar eclipses
3 September 2081 (Guernsey, Jersey)
23 September 2090 (South coast, Cornwall to Sussex)
3 June 2133 (Outer Hebrides, Dunnet Head, Shetland)
7 October 2135 (Central Scotland and Northumberland)
25 May 2142 (Jersey)

London's next total solar eclipse
14 June 2151 (the last was on 3 May 1715)

NaArMaMo 2017: Day 21

Aug. 21st, 2017 06:01 pm
[personal profile] pebblerocker posting in [community profile] naarmamo
Three actual weeks, can you believe!

Find of the Week: Goth Girl

Aug. 20th, 2017 09:57 pm
[personal profile] green_knight
I picked up the first of these in a supermarket the other day because I could not resist the eight-poster bed, read it yesterday, and today picked up the next two volumes. They are

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse
Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death
Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright

by Chris Ridell.

Young readers (the alleged intended audience) will probably enjoy them - they're not quite graphic novels, but they have a lot of graphic elements[*], and very silly plots - but well-read, pun-loving adults with a good grounding in literature and contemporary British culture will probably enjoy them even more.

Since I started reading them the air has been punctuated by laughter every now and again when a penny drops. I am halfway through book two, and there seems to be a puddle of pennies at my feet...

And now I shall return to the statue of a sulking-looking seamonster known as 'Mopey Dick'.

[*] extra points for innovative use of footnotes


Aug. 20th, 2017 08:06 pm
[personal profile] squirmelia
I'm so Dizzy, my head is spinning.


werg. Inform 7 doesn't run on stretch

Aug. 20th, 2017 06:45 pm
[personal profile] fluffymormegil

Because the Inform 7 team refuse to release source of anything that isn't completely perfect, Inform 7 is non-free software.

EDIT: It was refusing to run on Debian 9 "stretch".

When I moved its user config directory (which I hadn't touched since last running it!), suddenly it worked again. Peculiar.

[syndicated profile] ianvisits_feed

Posted by Ian Visits

With over half the escalators now installed in the new Elizabeth line stations, new timelapse video and photos released by Crossrail highlights current progress.

17 escalators have been fully commissioned at Canary Wharf station and the framework for 37 more have been completed at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon and Liverpool Street. Together these combine to a length of 1,603 metres, the equivalent of one mile of escalators.

In total, 81 escalators will be installed and commissioned at nine new Elizabeth line stations between Paddington and Woolwich, with a total length of 2.8 kilometres (2,802 metres). In addition, 54 lifts are being installed at these nine stations and all 40 stations on the Elizabeth line will have step-free access.

The longest escalator on the Elizabeth line will be at Bond Street – the 60 metre long escalator will carry passengers from Hanover Square near Oxford Street to platform level 25.7 metres below.

That makes them as long as the famous escalators at Angel tube station – but the vertical rise isn’t quite as high. No doubt someone will compare the two, to the millimeter at some point to see whether Angel has lost its title of the longest escalators on the London Underground.

The shortest escalator, at 18.5 metres, will be at Liverpool Street and take passengers from street level down into the Broadgate ticket hall.

Escalators in the new Elizabeth line stations will travel at a speed of 0.5 metres per second, with the exception of Canary Wharf’s escalators which travel at 0.75 metres per second as they have one less flat step at the top.

The Elizabeth line is on schedule to open in December 2018.

Timelapse video

[syndicated profile] ianvisits_feed

Posted by Ian Visits

It may seem oxymoronic to associate the words Coventry and Heritage in the same headline, but behind the headlines of post-war concrete there’s quite a lot of the old stuff left.

In any other city in fact, the amount of heritage that’s visible would be a matter of pride, but Coventry was quite famously firebombed during WW2 and before that was one of the jewels in the crown of medieval cities to visit.

Lots of little roads and old houses to admire, and a mighty Cathedral in the centre.

When the war was over, it was frankly, never likely to be possible to save much of the burnt out ruins, so they rebuilt, tearing down what remained to create the Coventry of today.

Now I am going to be contrary, but if you look around, what they built in the 1960s isn’t actually that bad. There’s some pretty decent stuff in the centre, and at the time, ideas such as pedestrianised shopping areas were genuinely radical.

If anything, what’s spoiling Coventry now is not the 1960s, but the 2000s. There’s a worrying amount of stuff going up that’s overlooking the city centre, and like many modern towers, they are bland to the point of being almost offensive. A new brick clad row of shops fronting that famous pedestrian area is someone’s very poor idea of how to use modern materials to hint at a vague dose of history. It’s vulgar cheapness that sits ill at ease with the proudly defiant 1960s architecture around it.

However, if older is what you want, there’s quite a few lumps lying around to find. There seems to be a trail to follow, but I was unable to find out details, so just wandered around stumbling upon delights.


Muchfriars Gatehouse

Grade II* listed building that formed part of the city wall. Whitefriars Gatehouse originally dates from 1352 and was extended during the 18th & 19th centuries.

It’s looking a bit shabby at the moment as it was damaged by arson in 2008 and has been empty since, but was sold recently as it is still viable for use as a home.

Medieval Ruin

Possibly late 13th century, and was revealed during the post-war clearance. Thought to be a merchants house, associated with the nearby friary, but archeologists are not sure, hence it’s very descriptive name of “medieval ruin”.

The site of the building was excavated in 1971, and archaeologists discovered pottery from the 13th and 14th centuries.

Bayley Lane

The remains of a medieval house that once stood on the site, now a rather curious bit of heritage standing alone in a park.

The road itself is thought to follow the line of the outer ditch or bailey of the former Coventry Castle, founded by the Earls of Chester between 1088 and 1147.

Lychgate Cottages

These charming 15th century cottages were nearly torn down in the post-war period, following substantial damage, but have been restored, even if around the site, its mostly a branch of Wetherspoons occupying them.

Go around the other side though, and in a depression can be found the remains of the old church on the site, with a lovely pedestrian bridge right across the top.

NatWest Bank

(OK, it’s not medieval, but it’s worth noting)

Take a look at the stunning door made from stainless steel and decorated with motifs from British, Irish and ancient Greek coins. Also look at the top, where it has the crest of the City of London, for this was formerly a branch of the National Provincial Bank which adopted a design based on its headquarters in London.

While not obvious unless told, this building also marked a radical change in bank design, which were usually nothing more than a grand doorway leading to the bank hidden behind a row of shops.

To have an entire frontage dedicated to the bank, which is today commonplace was when this was built, quite radical.

22 & 23 Bayley Lane

Next to the old Cathedral, this cottage built around 1500 is the only surviving example of its type in an area that until WW2 was full of them.

The decorative woodwork is probably 17th century and the windows date from the 19th century.

Swanswell Gate

Completed around 1440 as part of the fortified town wall, it gave access to the Prior’s lands outside the city, including the Swanswell fishpool.

It was converted into a house in 1932, with the arch being blocked and the roof raised. Look for the carving above the door which shows its heritage.

Old Grammar School

A recently refurbished 12th century building which was the former Hospital of St John.

Not open when I was there, it does open for special events.

Spon Street

This is about as close Coventry seems to get to promoting its heritage, with plenty of signs to the “Medieval Spon Street”, and while undeniably it’s a street lined with medieval buildings, it’s actually a bit of a let down.

It needs the cars to be removed, and had this been any other city, you’d have cobbled pedestrian street and it’d be filled with craft shops and cafes.

Here it looks a bit forlorn. Sadly.

Ford’s Hospital


This is a row of almshouses endowed in 1509 by William Ford and built around this astonishing court yard. You cant go into the courtyard, but the gate lets you peer thorough into it.

It’s said to be one of the best examples of timber framed architecture in the entire UK. Damaged by the blitz, it was fortunately rebuilt with the original timbers in the 1950s.

If it looks familiar to some, it was used for a filming location in the Doctor Who story, The Shakespeare Code.

Manor Yard

The former gatehouse to Cheylesmore Manor, which was the former 14th century royal palace owned by the Black Prince. The gatehouse was restored in 1968.

The building used to be the only unfortified royal palace outside London and is now better known as the Register Office, being the oldest building in the country to hold that function.

Coventry Cathedral

OK, yes, of course, there’s the famous ruins of Coventry Cathedral, with its huge open courtyard space to sit and relax in. Dotted around are some monuments to the former occupants, and still dominating the skyline the old tower.

I rather foolishly glanced at the opening hours without my glasses, and thought the tower closed at 5pm. It closes at 3pm, so I missed out on a chance to climb up to see the city from above.

I also therefore missed out on going into the modern cathedral proper, but was allowed to stand at the back quietly and admire the view while a service was taking place.

I also missed…

St. Mary’s Guildhall

A large medieval era hall with stained glass windows and collections of armour and furniture.

[personal profile] spiralsheep
- My local online news feed has had two big breaking stories this weekend so far: a van crashed into wall but nobody was injured, and a photo of a cuddly toy lost at a local event.

- Funko Four and his 2D Tardis.

The Fourth Doctor and the Tardis

- Reading, books 2017: 84.

79. Calling Major Tom, by David M Barnett, 2017, very soft science fiction novel, and I mean soft in every sense of the word. The point of view characters are Thomas Major the first astronaut travelling one-way to Mars, Gladys Ormerod a 70 year old grandmother with dementia, Ellie Ormerod a 15 year old granddaughter trying to keep her parentless poverty-line family together, and James Ormerod a 10 year old grandson who might want to be a scientist. Other characters abound and are decently fleshed out, including a Black teenager from Ellie's class at school who is called Delil (I don't think I've ever met a Delisle who spells his name Delil but anything's possible in Wigan, I suppose). The plot is ridiculous and sentimental, and pays tributes to It's A Wonderful Life as well as Space Oddity, although it also reminded me of an Ealing comedy by managing to be funny while telling uncomfortable truths about society but without being realism. Warning: contains a brief incident of mild racism from one of the pov characters, although not portrayed from her pov, but written skillfully, and frankly actually painfully amusing in the way that socially embarrassing older relatives sometimes are when they're -ist from decades old habit but with no current malice and one doesn't know whether to flinch or laugh at them. (4/5, goodreads = 140 ratings / 62 reviews 4/5)

• Unrepresentative quote: When BriSpA's Chief of Multi-Platform Safeguarding, Craig, was in the Royal Navy he was generally known as Hammerhead due to his habit of smashing his head against doors, walls and other heads after too much drink. Those days are in Craig's past, as is the nickname, though he sometimes uses a variation of it when he frequents certain online forums that require a certain level of anonymity. At least until an assignation is organised in a dark nightclub, or sometimes on a moonlit heath, where for the purposes of identification he carries a dog lead though, of course, he owns no dog. Craig does own two cats, named Ethel and Frank. He will know he has found true love when he meets someone who knows that those are the names of the parents of Judy Garland. He is still waiting.

• Another unrepresentative quote: And that but hangs there in the still air between them, buoyed on the heady scent of flowers in Laura's garden, threaded with the lazy flight path of droning bees, suspended from the brittle, drifting spiderwebs.

Generation Ships & morality

Aug. 20th, 2017 02:43 pm
[personal profile] juliet

Mirrored from Juliet Kemp.

I went to a panel at Worldcon on the morality of generation ships, and have been thinking about it since.

(I’m also going to take this opportunity to recommend this Jo Walton story set on a generation ship, which is great and has something to say about choice and decisions.)

So, the question under discussion at the panel was: is it morally acceptable to board a generation ship (i.e. a ship that people will live on for multiple generations on their way to another planet), given that you are not just making a decision for yourself, but for your future children, grandchildren, etc etc. The two main categories of moral problem that the panel identified were:

  • the risk of the voyage itself;
  • the lack of choice for every generation after the one that gets on the ship in the first place.

The ‘risk’ issue seems reasonably strong. It’s very unlikely that anyone would have a really clear idea of what the planet was like that they were going to. If you’re using a generation ship at all, then you probably don’t have any other form of fast travel, so any information that exists about the planet will be scanty, very out of date, or most likely both. (See Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, which is also great.) So it’s not at all a reliable bet that your descendants will truly be able to settle where they’re headed to, even if it looks good from here.

There are also the risks of the voyage itself, including but not limited to radiation issues, the possibility of running into something else, and the likelihood that the ship will genuinely be able to maintain a workable ecological system. We don’t have good on-Earth comparisons for small closed systems; what experiments have been conducted have been very short-term and not terribly promising. What about the social dynamics? What are the risks of, say, a totalitarian system arising? If the risks on Earth are very high, or humans on Earth are facing imminent disaster, then this might be an acceptable trade-off, but how high is ‘very high’ and how disastrous does a disaster have to be? Does it need to be Earth-wide? If your current home is, for example, sinking under rising waters, and you know that any alternative will mean becoming a refugee in poor circumstances — how much risk is ‘reasonable’ to accept then?

Which brings us on to the issue of ‘choice’. One could argue that a kid living in a refugee camp without enough food or warm clothes has, notionally, some future ‘choice’ or ‘opportunity’ to escape that. A child on a generation ship is stuck there.

But why is “can’t leave generation ship” morally different from “can’t leave Earth”? Which is of course a situation into which all children are currently born and which we do not consider morally problematic. And how realistic is the ‘choice’ that the average Earth-born child has? This was where I thought that the Worldcon panel fell down a bit. They threw the word “choice” around a lot but didn’t at all interrogate what realistic “choice” is available to which children in which situation on Earth. There are many kids born without very many realistic ‘choices’; children who are unlikely to go more than a few miles beyond where they were born, children whose projected lifespan is short, children whose lives are likely to be very difficult. How different is that, in reality, from a generation ship? In fact, if the generation ship does work, it might be a better life than on Earth: guaranteed food, shelter, and useful work (making the ship run).

The panel talked about limiting the choices of children born on the moon, because they might not be able to go back and live on Earth — but why is Earth necessarily better than the moon, or Mars, or the asteroid belt? Why isn’t it immoral of us to have children who are stuck down here in the gravity well?

More generally: we’re constantly making choices for our children, and through them for generations beyond; we’re constantly giving them some chances and removing other options, every decision we make. Is that immoral? It’s not avoidable, however much privilege you have, although most certainly more privilege generally means more options.

Would I get on a generation ship? Well. Not without a really good perusal of the specs. But I’m not convinced that it’s immoral to do so.

Best Kept Secret

Aug. 20th, 2017 12:00 pm
[syndicated profile] diamondgeezer_feed

Posted by diamond geezer

I spotted this advert for Royal Museums Greenwich on the tube.

Greenwich is one of the UK's 10 most-visited attractions.
UNESCO are so aware of Greenwich they gave it World Heritage status.
The system of time the entire world uses is based on Greenwich.
Greenwich is not London's best kept secret, in any way whatsoever.

Marketing liars are evil people.


BritRail GB Pass

Aug. 20th, 2017 07:00 am
[syndicated profile] diamondgeezer_feed

Posted by diamond geezer

Geoff and Vicki finally finished their All The Stations journey yesterday, after almost 15 weeks on the trains. They started out in Penzance back in May and reached Wick yesterday evening, having visited all of Britain's 2563 National Rail stations. In doing so they've travelled the length and breadth of the country, via almost everywhere, including places you'll never go, and knocked out over 50 videos along the way. Damned impressive stuff.

Should you ever want to follow in their footsteps and undertake a lengthy railway adventure, the ticket you need is an All Line Rover. Try gadding about wherever you like on a normal ticket and an inspector will shake their head, because random meandering's not allowed. Meanwhile all the other rover tickets, of which there are many, are geographically quite restrictive. But an All Line Rover allows allows unlimited travel on any National Rail services for either 7 or 14 consecutive days (certain peak trains excepted, terms and conditions apply), which is definitely the way to go.

The only catch is the price, which is a heck of a lot of money. The Standard Class All Line Rover (7 Days) costs £492, while an All Line Rover (14 Days) costs £745.

All Line Rover7 days£492£70 a day
All Line Rover14 days£745£53 a day

Walk-up tickets for some long-distance journeys are ridiculously expensive, in which case £70 a day is a bargain. But unless you're planning to do a lot of cross-country journeys without getting off to explore, those aren't very appealing fares.

So here's some news that may make you very cross. If you're not British, you can travel for half price.

The Britail GB Pass is sold online by Visit Britain and allows 8 days unlimited rail travel for £250. Several other durations are available, including 15 days for £372, which is half the cost of the equivalent All Line Rover. What's more a Britrail GB Pass has no peak time restrictions, so it's actually a better product. But it's only available to tourists coming from abroad. As the website confirms, "You can't buy a BritRail Pass if you have a UK passport".

BritRail GB Pass3 days£140£47 a day
BritRail GB Pass4 days£173£43 a day
BritRail GB Pass8 days£250£31 a day
BritRail GB Pass15 days£372£25 a day
BritRail GB Pass22 days£466£21 a day
BritRail GB Pass1 month£550£18 a day

Look, overseas tourists can even buy a 22-day go-anywhere rail ticket for less money than Britons pay for 7 days. How can that fare be fair?

Stringent checks are made to ensure you can't buy a Britrail GB Pass if you're not entitled to one. You have to provide the date of your outbound departure from the UK, plus details of the flight number, train or ferry booking number, and you have to be staying in the country for 6 months or less. During ticket checks inspectors will expect to see "proof of return travel from Britain", and if you live here you can't do that, so you have to pay twice as much.

Britrail GB Passes are clearly marketed as offering "preferential rates as an overseas visitor". That's great, if it helps overseas visitors take the train rather than fly or waste time travelling by coach. But there is a general underlying air of admitting Britain's fare system is ridiculously complicated, so buy this expensive ticket and save the worry of having to queue up or pre-book tickets before you arrive.

Other Britrail Passes are available, but UK residents can't buy any of those either. For example the BritRail England Pass costs £199 for 8 days, which sounds nice, but you can't have one. Only if you surrendered your passport and went and lived abroad could you have the freedom of England's railways for £25 a day.

All of this preferential treatment might make you very cross. But if you are peeved, the thing to be angry about isn't "why do foreigners pay half price?" It's "why do Britons have to pay twice as much?"

NaArMaMo 2017: Day 20

Aug. 20th, 2017 05:16 pm
[personal profile] pebblerocker posting in [community profile] naarmamo
All together now!
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Posted by Ian Visits

Hidden behind a rather small easy to ignore door in a high imposing wall next to Buckingham Palace can be found a large collection of regal bling.

This is in fact the Royal Mews, where the horses and carriages are kept in store for when they are needed to provide a bit of pomp and ceremony — which is surprisingly often.

The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace evolved from the King’s Mews, which were originally just to the north of Trafalgar Square and were originally to house royal hawks. The name ‘mews’ derives from the word ‘mew’, meaning moulting, as the birds were confined there at moulting time. The building was destroyed by fire in 1534 and rebuilt as stables, but they kept the name, so stables are now known as mews, even though the hawks have long since flown the nest.

The current Royal Mews is however at the back of Buckingham Palace, behind that high stone wall that surrounds the palace’s back gardens.

Today the horseless carriage does most of the work, so there’s rather fewer horses in the mews, so it’s open to the public to go in and have a look.

Some of the former stables now house the State Carriages that are dragged out for regal events, each in their own box with a display board explaining their heritage.

Most of the carriages here are of the landau type, either a State Landau or Semi-State Landau. The difference being that the semi-versions are driven by a rider on the horses, rather than on a box on the carriage itself.

Despite their seemingly reduced bling, the semi-state carriages are preferred for regal duties as the occupant of the carriage is easier to see if the driver isn’t in the way.

In another stable though is the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, a modern carriage that was intended for the Queen’s 80th birthday, but ended up being delivered late and wasn’t delivered until the Diamond Jubilee.

It’s favoured by the Queen, because unlike most, this one comes with decent suspension. It’s also a living vessel of British heritage, with the wood coming from a range of sources, such as a piece of HMS Victory and numerous cathedrals. A chuck of the Stone of Scone is under the seat in a “time capsule” with copies of the Magna Carta and Domesday Book.

Elsewhere there’s one carriage that is only used on exceptionally rare occasions, the Gold State Coach.

Commissioned for the Coronation of King George III, it was late, so he didn’t get his bling-tastic journey to Westminster Abbey, but it has been used for every Coronation since.

It’s not used often in part because it is horrific to ride in, being akin to being in a ship on stormy seas. The sight of the monarch staggering out and being sea sick being something to be avoided.

It’s also a pain to get out of the room it’s currently stored in, taking around 2 days and needing the dismantling of the side wall which hides the double doors it can pass through.

Elsewhere are the horses, and their training grounds. Most carriages are pulled by Cleveland Bays, but the monarch’s coaches are always pulled by Windsor Grey horses, and with one exception anyone else who wants to use those horses has to ask The Queen for permission first.

The only other person allowed to borrow the Queen’s horses without permission is Father Christmas, who has his own sleigh in the stables and visits annually to hand out presents to the staff.

Although we think of the carriages as being used by the Royal Family on ceremonial occasions, they are out and about the streets quite regularly, as foreign ambassadors presenting their credentials to The Queen are brought to the Palace in one of the coaches.

It’s quite a nice treat for the Ambassador, and with a lot of countries to deal with, there’s a steady stream of visitors throughout the year needing to borrow a coach for the visit.

The Royal Mews is open most days, except when there’s a big ceremonial event taking place. Entry is £10, which also gets you unlimited visits for a year.


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